The Twitter writing and publishing community are in a panic right now, forecasting that Twitter is going to fall apart under its new ownership by Tesla founder Elon Musk. Many are calling for authors, literary agents, and editors to leave Twitter, and out of this chaos a question has emerged: what alternative channels will authors use to promote their books?
I have a lot of thoughts.
The first is that Twitter isn’t and never was a great marketing tool for books. Nobody shops via Twitter. Sure you can sell some copies to fellow members of the writing community, but the return isn’t worth the effort, and it’s certainly not the volume of sales publishers are hoping for when they ask authors to join Twitter.
That said, Twitter has benefited authors in many ways. Networking, finding beta readers, finding and getting familiar with literary agents. And from what I gather based on the recent tweets of agents and editors, they’ve used Twitter for similar purposes: connecting with authors, connecting with each other, finding new clients by participating in the various pitch contests.
So, yeah, it would be a travesty if the Twitter writing community dissolved, but it has nothing to do with marketing books. Which leads me to the point of this post.
I’ve always wondered why major publishers don’t build their own online marketing channels. Surely they could do it. Each of them has a full roster of famous authors and other celebrities on their lists, some of whom would help promote a HarperCollins YouTube channel or a Penguin Group Twitch channel.
Why don’t the Big Five publishers livestream an E3 type of event to showcase their new list? Bring in special guests (famous authors) to help bring in viewership. Have live music geared towards the younger audience with whom they’re always trying to connect. Announce upcoming film adaptations. Make a deal with Hollywood production companies to debut movie trailers of their adapted works. Create a new award like Best Debut, or an award focused on highlighting books that didn’t hit the bestseller lists, chosen by in-house voting. Host a writing contest for teens and announce the winner during the live event. Influential BookTubers would live-react to such an event, lending their own subscriber bases (some of which are in the hundreds of thousands and even millions of followers).
Then publishers wouldn’t have to outsource their marketing so much. They wouldn’t torment their authors by requesting that they join Twitter (again, a useless platform for selling books) or TikTok (which is only effective for certain genres and is highly driven by things like luck and personality).
I don’t know. Maybe that wouldn’t work. But it still baffles me that these enormous publishing houses, which are known throughout the world and have tons of money, are so bad at the internet.
Someone please tell these old guys you can’t sell a meaningful number of books on Twitter. It was never a great marketing tool. The most an author can do to sell their own books online (with the exception of getting lucky on TikTok or shelling out advertising spend on Facebook, Amazon, BookBub, etc.) is to have a website, have a social media presence, and simply be available to new fans who want to find and follow them, so they can be alerted to the author’s next release.
For the love of god, wipe the dust off your Gateway computers and figure out how the AOL online works, folks.
I’m a freelance developmental editor. For more information, visit my editing services page.